Manfred Butenuth

Catalyst for Competition

Manfred Butenuth Receives 2013 IADD Lifetime Achievement Award

Editor’s note: The following was taken from IADD President Andrew Carey’s remarks at the Awards Banquet, May 2, at the 2013 IADD•FSEA Odyssey in Nashville, TN, USA.

The recipient of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award is no stranger to me or my family. Back in 1978 at the age of 11, I was taken to Germany as family baggage. Lasercomb, where Manfred Butenuth was a partner, had hired my father, Kevin Carey, as well as Roger Webb, Tim Denney and Simon James to start a new company in the USA. My father being hired was basically my fault, as I brought the wrong newspaper home from the shop and the job advertisement was in that “wrong” paper.

My family was in Germany for nine months as the training went on. Even as an 11- and then 12-year-old, I still remember the dieshop that was created within Lasercomb. For example, they used special pneumatic hammers for inserting rule, techniques advanced enough to attract the attention of a young boy and be remembered over 30 years later. No swinging hammers there—think of all the band-aids they must have saved.

This was the beginning of Lasercomb in the USA. Many companies have been spawned from this original group, yet the initial directive all stemmed from the hiring choices Manfred made. Lasercomb in the United States became several of the dieshops now owned by Atlas Dies, and the well-known CAD system ArtiosCAD owned by Esko. Kevin Carey has been responsible for a number of companies, while Roger Webb founded Cimex where I work. Simon and Tim stayed with the software part of the company, which changed hands several times, until retiring recently. I think the ramifications of this period of time—from 1978 to 1979—in our industry worldwide are unmatched. A majority of the hardware and software used in our industry stems from this root.

In 1981 Manfred Butenuth left Lasercomb and with his brother Dieter started a new company named ELCEDE, channeling all their thoughts and creativity into their own company. There is a whole history tab on their company website, dedicated to the innovations they debuted from 1981 to 2012, each year marked by something new. The number of “firsts” they have come out with is difficult to tally.

In 2002 I wrote, “Just two weeks ago I attended an Open House at ELCEDE GmbH in Germany, attended by customers and prospects from 35 countries. There were 40 people from Russia alone. Leading dieshops from all over the world were represented, and people from every continent. I have never seen such a concentration of knowledge and people in our industry.” That Open House just set the stage for all the subsequent ones. It almost sounds like comments we make about Odyssey. I have been going to their Open Houses ever since, as they are a great opportunity to see new technology and meet people from all over the world. I even mentioned in one of my recent presidential columns the enlightening conversation I had with an Iranian diemaker at the last event.

In 2011 ELCEDE celebrated their 2,500th machine; they have equipment all over the world. However, the effects of the products created at ELCEDE go far beyond the 2,500 machines they have installed themselves, and have affected countless other machines around the world. Manfred and ELCEDE became the catalyst for the equipment supplier competition that has affected almost all the automated equipment used in our dieshops to this day, and is something we all benefit from.

When we think of high-end cigarette work or very long run jobs, the dies are much more precise than conventional dies and many of the joints are either ground or broached. This is a concept that gained acceptance based on equipment developed at ELCEDE. They effectively pioneered broaching, even though different methods can now be used to achieve the removal of the material. You can get this feature on many different machines now, but someone had to prove the technology.

Many of us in the US use Gerber rotary lasers and really like the new standalone setup tables that increase production since you can prep multiple boards ahead of time. This was again pioneered by ELCEDE and subsequently adopted by other vendors. Rofin slab lasers are becoming much more common with a variety of vendors and in many cases are used exclusively. They may be more expensive, but have many benefits that reduce that initial cost. Again, this is a concept first proved by ELCEDE, then adopted by others.

More recently, Manfred and ELCEDE solved one of the long-standing issues with creating nicks in an automated bender. They would not go the conventional grinding way, as this leaves small particles of metal throughout the machine, degrading the functionality of the bending arbors over time, for example. After many years of research and various attempts, they introduced a new method using a carousel of multiple skiving blades that are basically like very small carbide saw blades. These blades do not leave the messy particles that can wreck a bender. In a few years, how many benders will have adopted this new cleaner method? The blades are also safer because the wheels don’t shatter the same way grinding discs do. On top of all that, they are also affordable.

Manfred and ELCEDE are not necessarily household names in the US as they have a much bigger market share all around the world. I don’t think many people understand how much influence ELCEDE has had in any automated equipment they use, whether it is from ELCEDE or not. Having been around a lot of the events spawned from this Lasercomb group starting in the late 70s and early 80s, it is sometimes easier for me to follow the spider web of events that transpired since then and see how much has been influenced by a group of less than 10 people. It is often said that copying is the sincerest form of flattery, and whether people know it or not, ELCEDE has been heavily watched over the years as have come out with so many innovations.

By becoming the catalyst for competition, they have had a much greater influence on our automated dieshop equipment than any other company. Manfred has now handed over the reins of the company to his son Marc and—further primed with an influx of enthusiastic and talented people—ELCEDE is ready to work on innovations for us for the next 30 years.

It has been a personal privilege for me to know Manfred and the Butenuth family for over 30 years now, and it was my distinct pleasure to present to him the 2013 IADD Lifetime Achievement Award.